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Wolf packs bring challenges to villagers in NW China
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To kill or not to kill?

Herdsmen are now calling for a resumption of hunting as more and more wolf attacks occur.

"Herdsmen are complaining about a growing loss of livestock as well as the terror instilled by the attacks," Zhang said.

"Wolves breed quickly. If we don't kill them, they will kill us in several years," said an angry Jiglitu, a 40-year-old Mongolian herdsman from the Subei Mongolian Autonomous County in the west end of the corridor.

Seven of his 10 foals were killed by wolves two weeks ago. Last year, he lost more than 20 yaks valued at between 1,000 and 4,000 yuan each to wolves.

Zhao also wants the resumption of hunting. "We set up a team who shout, light firecrackers and bonfires to drive the wolves away, but all attempts failed."

On May 8, policemen in Yumen shot a wolf. "It was a threat and the villagers were panicking", the city's wild animal administration chief He Tao said.

"Three wolves began hanging around villages in February, and they never withdrew despite our intimidation, so we killed one as a warning to the rest."

But Zhang says he doesn't believe hunting is a good idea.

"If hunting is officially allowed, we will lose control of the protection of wild animals," he said.

Wolves could be helpful in protecting grasslands and normally they didn't initiate attacks on people, he said.

"But they are smart and vengeful animals. They would possibly attack more and even kill people if their cubs got hurt."

Dance with the wolves

Liu Naifa, a professor at Lanzhou University who has long been involved in wild animal studies, said the return of wolves was actually a result of human activities.

"Over recent years, we have infringed on or destroyed wild animals' habitat and water sources by mining, making fences, planting, and so on," he said.

Statistics issued by the provincial agricultural and husbandary department show fenced land in Gansu is about 5,000,000 hectares, or nearly one-third of the total arable land in the province.

When wolf's natural prey such as black-tailed gazelles was forced to look for food and water near villages, predators would follow, he said.

Wildlife protection authorities propose the provincial government draft compensation policies for farmers.

In six other provinces in China such as Yunnan, farmers are eligible for compensation from local governments if their crops or livestocks are ruined by wild animals.

But in Gansu, to "dance with the wolves" still requires a lot of effort, Zhang said.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2009)

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